Candidates discuss qualifications, county issues
*Editor's Note: Beemer's answers will not be published.
District 5 Commission candidate Kevinn Beemer was offered the opportunity to respond to the same questions asked of each candidate in all of the Osceola County commission district races. Each candidate in all of the races, (including prosecutor and sheriff), was asked identical questions, given a response deadline, and informed by project coordinator Sarah Neubecker that in order to be balanced and fair, every individual answer would be limited to 150 words. Candidate Beemer responded with two question answers falling within the guidelines, but one over the 150 word limit. He was then asked to edit his answer to fit the limit determined for all candidates in the communication sent them in preparation for this project. Two other candidates also exceeded the word limitations, and when contacted agreed to self-edit their responses - which they did. Beemer suggested that since two of his answers fell below the word limitations he should be allowed to ‘mitigate’ words from the answers that were short, to the answer that was too long. That was not what was requested of each candidate, nor was that option requested by or offered to any candidate. Instead, Beemer, responded: “Due to the fact that the other two answers are shorter, and limiting answers to 150 words, I’m sure that there will be ample room for my response. If your editor doesn’t like my responses or wants to change my answers, I’d prefer that you eliminate all three of my responses in their entirety.” With respect to Candidate Beemer’s request, and in fairness to all those who kept their responses to the declared word limit, the editorial team will fulfill his demand and will not publish his responses.
OSCEOLA COUNTY – Sixteen Osceola County residents will vie for seven seats on the Osceola County Board of Commissioners.
Every incumbent commissioner is running again, with only one seat uncontested. All candidates are Republican and results of the Aug. 7 primary election will decide the winners of each seat. There are no Democratic candidates running for any of the positions.
To help keep voters informed on the candidates’ views and opinions, the Herald Review posed several questions about issues facing Osceola County, why candidates believe they are qualified for office and what makes them want to represent their district as a commissioner.
For fairness, questions were identical and all answers were limited to 150 words.
Mark Brock, incumbent commissioner for District One, and Charles Walter of District Five did not respond to our questions.
Incumbent Ronald Sikkema is running unopposed for District Three, covering Highland Township, Marion Township and Sherman Township east of 140th Avenue, and also did not respond to our questions.
HERALD REVIEW: Why have you decided to run for the county commissioner's seat for your district for the 2013-15 term?
District One - LeRoy Township, Lincoln Township and Richmond Township south of Three Mile Road and east of 200th Avenue.
JILL HALLADAY: After attending several Commission and Township
meetings and having multiple discussions with fellow community members, I now believe that more can be done to bridge the communication gap between the Commission, other government departments and the citizens of the county. I feel that my past experience, concern for the community and desire for continuous improvement makes me a good candidate for this position. I plan to do my best to keep the lines of communication open and make myself accessible to the people of my district, starting with a understanding of the needs and concerns of the county. Hard work on my part I believe this could be a rewarding experience.
CHARLES KAMPMUELLER: Recent events have enlightened me as to the true nature of our local government. We can not always trust everyone that is in a powerful position to be honest and ethical. Some actually have a severe lack of honor and integrity and do not act in the best interests of this community. It has made me realize I simply cannot just stand by and watch any longer. We simply cannot allow the constant abuse of the middle class who bear the brunt of the tax burden and the harassment. So I either must get involved to affect change or, like so many others, just leave town. The only avenue open to us is the Board of Commissioners. Unfortunately, the boards limited authority will make meaningful change difficult but we have no other means of oversight of local government.
District Two - Rose Lake Township, Burdell Township and Sherman Township west of 140th Avenue.
MARK GREGORY: I have decided to run for county commissioner District Two because with my knowledge and experience in local government, I feel that I would be able to represent the people in a beneficial way. As a small business owner I understand the importance of being responsible to the people I serve. As their representative, I feel I could be a knowledgeable voice for the people of District Two.
TAMMY STONER (Incumbent): I am running for a second term because I feel there is still much work to do. “Business as usual” and or “Because that’s just the way we have always done it” are not how you run anything in today’s dangerous economy. The people’s tax dollars need to be spent just as efficient as the people themselves have to be in spending their household dollars. My first term has allowed me to learn the basics of procedure, policy, and trying to understand where is all the money going and why. Knowing how things operate in advance allows for better decision making when you have 48 hours or less to comprehend what you are truly voting on.
District Four - Middle Branch Township, Orient Township, Sylvan Township and Hartwick Township.
MATT KELLER: I have decided to run for county commissioner District Four because, I’m a younger hard working individual and I feel that my skills can help do a part in our community. I would like to follow the footsteps of my past grandpa who was involved greatly in our community and also was a commissioner. I also want to give my son something to look up too and build confidience in our family and for my son so futher generations can follow.
ALAN TIEDT (incumbent): My grandfather served as the Township Supervisor and on the road commission for the county many years ago. My father served as a trustee on the Orient Township board. I have seen the importance of serving the community in which one resides.
District Five - The City of Evart, Cedar Township and Osceola Township.
ROGER ELKINS (Incumbent): For the most part I've enjoyed being a part of local politics. Serving is an opportunity to give back to the community. There are some issues and projects for the county that I would like to see completed and to be a part of the process in addition to continue serving the constituents of district five.
District Six - Hersey Township and Evart Township.
DAVE BROOKS (Incumbent): During the past five and a half years, The Emergency Medical Service has gone from operating in the red, to a self-sustaining department now able to fund an additional facility. In 2009, the B.O.C. was instrumental in developing a new health insurance plan for county employees. While keeping similar coverage, we chose higher co-pays and then self-funded back to the deductibles of the previous plan. The result was a savings of almost $400,000.The county applied for and received a Federal Energy Grant in 2010 that funded nearly 80% of the court house annex remodeling project. That building is now extremely energy efficient, a much more pleasant work environment, and ready to serve the county for several more decades.These are a few examples of the Board's accomplishments during my terms in office. I would like to continue that for another term.
RYAN STEIG: I want to bring a real grassroots consertative opinion to a board that has leaned on the liberal side to long.
PAMELA WAYNE: I have reached a point in my life that
I feel I need to help the people of this district by keeping them informed of what is going on within the county. I don't believe we should do things "because they've always been done that way" - unless it still makes sense, I do believe that you should always do what you say you are going to do even if it's hard, and I believe in researching issues and situations before making decisions. I love this county and the township that I live in, and would like to see the County flourish in both wealth and growth with new business and industry.
District Seven - The City of Reed City and Richmond Township north of Three Mile Road and west of 200th Avenue.
LARRY EMIG (Incumbent): I have been a county commissioner for a number of years and feel my experience, especially in these hard times, is very important. I have learned much over the years in how our county departments operate and their budgets. I am proud that we have maintained a balanced budget, kept spending down, and not had to lay anyone off in the economic times we are going through. We are fortunate that we have not had to reduce services to our residents. Knowing the history and how our departments operate, will be helpful as we continue to face tough times and challenges.
JACKIE YOUNGS: I’ve decided to run for County Commissioner District Seven because i feel we need a change. The same people have been commissioners for some time and I don’t see any growth in this community. I also don’t think they use common sense when it comes to spending money.
HERALD REVIEW: What experience will you bring to the position and how will it help you make sound decisions for the county?
HALLADAY: As a former Trustee of Lincoln Township and member of the Osceola County Brownfield Authority and current Lincoln Township Board of Review has given me the opportunity to learn how local government responses to the needs of the people which it represents.
KAMPMUELLER: I have twenty eight years experience in public accounting. I am a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and have a Masters degree in taxation from Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration. My first years in public accounting involved audits of local governmental units and I learned the benefits of zero based budgeting. The budget process must look at all departments from the ground up and improve our cost to benefit ratio. We can reduce the tax burden on our citizens.
GREGORY: I am a small business owner. I have been very involved in the community for many years. I have been a member of the LeRoy RoseLake fire department 28 years and serving 10 years as the fire chief.I have also served as township trustee for Rose Lake township.I am president of the Osceola county fire association, also serve as Osceola citizen at large for Mecosta-Osceola 911 authority board,which is appointed by the Osceola county commissioners. The experience i have gained allows me to have a very strong background in public safety and serving people. I would like to put my experience to work representing the people at the county level of government.
STONER: The experience I bring to this position is 31 adult years of living within my means, not spending more than I bring in, successful small business management & making sound financial decisions based on essential needs and overlooking the non essential wants. Overseeing an $18 million county budget requires the same disciplined spending habits as overseeing an $18 thousand household budget.
KELLER: I am college educated in Business and will be holding an associates in auto technician. I work hard on our family farm and understand we are in hard times which means we needs smart decisions to get through. I am younger, but I would like to bring in new technologies and ideas to our community.
TIEDT: I fulfilled my fathers position as trustee of Orient Township in 1977. Continuing to serve as trustee for another 13 years through 1990 at which time I became the Clerk of Orient Township, serving as Clerk through December of 2006. January 2007 I started by first term as a county commissioner serving District 4, soon to complete my 6th year. I've also served as a representative of Orient Township on the Evart Area Fire Board, holding the position as treasurer for approximately 8 years. During that time we worked together to build the Fire Barn in Evart. I also served as the Orient Township representative of the Evart Area Recreation Committee for a number of years.
ELKINS: I bring experience, leadership and passion for the job. I've served 4+ years as a county commissioner. I've served in local government as a city council member, mayor and city manager. I worked over thirty years in public education in Osceola County. I've spent years in leadership and service roles in civic, community, and church positions. These include scouting, Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, Osceola County Community Foundation, and Community of Christ volunteer leadership roles.
BROOKS: I was born in Osceola County and all but one of my children and their families live here.
I started my work life as a tradesman for the first 16 years, served as The County 4-H Extension Agent for 15 years, then owned and operated Farm Bureau Insurance for 10 years. I have served on the Reed City Council, County Planning Commission, Recreation Committee, Osceola Community Fundation, Michigan 4-H Foundation and The Central Michigan District Health Dept. Board of Directors. I attended Ferris State University, hold a certificate in grant writing by Community Systems Inc. and currently I manage the Osceola Fair Grounds. I know the people, situations and history of the County and have proven myself to be a leader that cares about the future of Osceola County.
STEIG: I was born and raised around a small family owned business, I owned my own trucking company for 10 years, and I am a foreman for the Osceola County Road ommission. I have private and public sector experience that allows me makes sound and reasonable decisions.
WAYNE: I have been the treasurer for the City of Evart for 8+Years dealing with the ups and downs of government finance. I have seen and had to deal with the drop in revenue from the state for the past several years. I am on our Church council, and I have been on the Habitat for Humanity board since the start of it in Osceola County in 1999. I have been married for almost 33 Years to the same person, lived in the same house since 1985, raised four kids during which some of those years were with low income and had to stretch pennies into dollars (my Dad always told me I was the best at that). Keeping people employed within the county and looking for other sources of revenue is a big goal. I've also, in my spare time, earned my Real Estate License with the State of Michigan.
EMIG: Not only will my years (20) of experience be helpful but also the fact that I represent the county on a number of boards that require a commissioner to be a part of and that the county has funds committed to them. These organizations provide services to our community and we want to make sure our funds are being used correctly and we are getting the "best for our buck". I also represent the county at the State level and have been able to get our concerns known in Lansing which has helped us to not get cut so much in our revenue sharing and PILT payments.
YOUNGS: The experience I have is: I have been a small business owner and a manager of small businesses in this community for over 30 years. I know how to work within a budget and not to spend money just because it happens to be there today. You have to think of tomorrow, next week and next year.
HERALD REVIEW: What is the biggest issue facing Osceola County today and how do you plan to deal with it, if elected?
HALLADAY: Budget constraints- Being fiscally responsible to provide the most services possible while staying within budget.
KAMPMUELLER: A couple local business owners shared their frustration and disgust with the extreme lack of support from the judicial and criminal justice system, at both the city and county level. Another person put it like this - "no longer is it protect and serve it is now search and destroy". Many upstanding taxpayers have gotten trapped in their net. The other issue relates to this election and the attempt by some to stack the county boards in their favor and for their benefit which does not benefit the community. No longer is it service above self. The status quo forces us to lower our expectations and standards and allows the community to go further into decline. We must raise our expectations of our government, of those employees and officials causing the problems, and insist we get more and do more with each dollar we pay in tax.
GREGORY: I am unsure if it is the biggest issue facing Osceola county,but it certainly is a issue for the people of district 2. This would be the building of the ambulance stations.People in this area feel that the ambulance base should be built more centralized in the north half of the county for equal response time. If elected i would like to explore options to get the advance life support to this area quicker.
STONER: The biggest issue in my opinion is communication. When only a select few know what’s going on, this is a problem. When committee’s are not meeting on a regular basis this is the gap that creates the problem. As leaders of our county I feel it’s our job to keep not only our departments informed, but also our townships, cities, villages, people & each other. In my opinion this communication gap has put our emergency communications system in dire need of attention and that in my opinion would be the second biggest issue facing Osceola County.If I am re-elected I am still only one of seven votes, until the majority of the board also sees this as an issue I will continue to make great effort in dealing with the fact that no one else wants to deal with it.
KELLER: Biggest issue I have is that spending $47,500 to pay an architech to draw up blue print for a EMS building that has a unknown location is wasteful and not business like. We have bigger issues like how to bring more jobs to our area and other ways to keep our community strong and I would like to work hard to do whats best.
TIEDT (incumbent): I feel that as a commissioner we need to maintain the services we provide even though funds have decreased. Because of the experience of the county staff we have been able to work well together to maintain the level of service. I feel we can continue to work well together, putting the Osceola residents first.
ELKINS: Providing the same level of services and staffing while facing declining revenues is the biggest issue in Osceola County today. The county has done an excellent job in meeting these challenges. Ambulance bases, their locations and how to stay within the ambulance budget is an issue the commission is working on and will need to make additional tough decisions. I favor ambulance bases in all four quadrants of the county.
BROOKS: I have heard candidates say the County needs change.
Well, we have had a lot of change forced upon us in the past 5 years. The loss of State Revenue Sharing, lower property values and the increasing cost of nearly everything.
We are and have been dealing with these change here in Osceola, and unlike many other counties, our reserve fund balance went up again in 2011! This happened without any layoff of employees or cut back in services to the public!
The Osceola County Administrator, department heads and staff have more experience and education than we have ever seen in the past. These folks know their jobs and do them well!
If re-elected, I will continue to work with the Board and our administration to maintain the services the people of Osceola County have come to expect!
STEIG: Property tax is too high for the area we live in. The reason properly taxes are too high is because are local government is too big. Osceola County is the third largest employer in Osceola County. That is as close to socialism as you will ever get. The only way to change this is to shrink government. People need to work for people. One issue is the EMS building which we have spent tens of thousands of dollars on and still have no answers. The answer is contracting out and letting people work for people. We need to take programs like Commission on Aging and turn them back to volunteers and donations; we don’t need people with 60k salary’s turning this program into a million plus dept to the public. I don’t believe in cutting programs, I believe in cutting the size of government that administers these programs.
WAYNE: Watching the almighty dollar is the biggest issue. I don't believe in wasteful spending of money or time; and making decisions before you have all of the facts. I am not a person with a specific agenda; I don't have an axe to grind; I bring a level head to the table and I am able to look at all sides to come up with the best decisions that have the counties taxpayer's best interest in mind. I am not here to talk bad about any of the current commissioners; I can just bring a different point of view to the table. The EMS issues that we are spending county money on for the design of a building without a place to build it or even if we have the funds to build them is troubling to me; I need to research this issue fully.
EMIG: The budget is still a significant issue. It's a constant battle to fight for our revenue in order to maintain the public safety and public services we offer and our county residents want maintained. Working hard to not get cut and to be creative when we do takes much work. We also have some pending issues with our Ambulance Service regarding a base in our northern half of the county. This is important and needs to be addressed. I feel we have held our ground and worked through the challenges we have faced and I can still be helpful in working with the challenges we will continue to face is elected.
YOUNGS: The biggest issue facing Osceola County is jobs. Without good paying jobs, our children and grandchildren have to leave the area to find employment. Which in turn lowers the population, houses are vacant, businesses close and we lose tax revenue.